Whether we realize it or not during oral conversation our eyes move. We do not stare directly at the mouth of the person speaking. When watching someone who is finger spelling entire sentences, you must stay focused. Cut your eyes away for a second and you just lost three letters.
We Christians often talk about being "followers of Jesus" and today's gospel reminds us just how difficult that is. If we are followers, then Jesus is not walking beside us with his arm around us. He is ahead of us. And, if we are honest, Jesus is way ahead of us. And the road is filled with twists and turns. Most of all there are lots of side streets. If you have ever been to the Middle East or North Africa think of the souq, the overcrowded market. You get distracted by a vendor and the person you were following has disappeared. You took your eye off them for less than a minute, but now you are the one who is lost.
Jesus delivers a harsh and hard message today.
No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God
To be a follower of Jesus is to keep our eyes fixed constantly on him and be constantly moving forward. It is the only direction that time moves. We are following Jesus through the souq of life, loud voices and shiny objects all around. And then there is our own innate tendency to look back over our shoulder at what was. And while we ruminate on the past, the present zips by and is gone. We took our eyes off Jesus, and suddenly we are standing there confused and lost because he is THE WAY.
And of we are not really careful, we can go from ruminating to being absolutely stuck in the past. We declare some moment the golden age and we want to stay there. But if we are followers, we never stop.
Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head
Jesus isn't complaining; he's stating a fact. He is a man on a mission. He will rest when it is done.
To be a follower we must also be constantly attentive to him. This does not mean constant busyness. Jesus is way ahead of any of us, and we are easily distracted. So we have to regularly stop and get our bearings, refocus on Jesus.
It sounds really harsh for Jesus to declare that some people are unfit. But again he is simply stating a fact. If we continue to look back we cannot move forward.
The Sacrament of Penance (confession) is a great place for us to put the past to rest. Unfit need not be a permanent condition. We can turn around face forward, focus, and follow.